STL Science Center

STL Science Center

04 February 2012

Interesting Photos of an Interesting Dinosaur

©Todd Marshall
Nigersaurus really looks unique. There are no two ways about it, this is a special dinosaur. The portrait by Todd Marshall, that is no exaggeration, that is exactly what this dinosaur looked like, vacuum attachment face and all. What is really special about the mouth is the teeth, which we will get to momentarily. Notice, however, that the head is shaped almost like its slightly older family members and a lot like all other diplodocid dinosaurs. There really is not much deviation from the successful body plan of Diplodocus even millions of years later and continents away except in the area of this dinosaur's dental battery. The nose is situated in a very similar position as are the eyes, though a total side view will give the reader a much more clear understanding of the amazingly short length of the skull in comparison to those older diplodocid cousins. The tail is even remarkably similar as shall be seen.

What numerous teeth!
The dental battery of Nigersaurus is nearly unfathomable. Literally over a hundred teeth sit in the upper and lower edges of the hadrosaur like mouth and, in all actuality, appear to be much more like the mouth of a baleen whale than of a large dinosaur. The teeth, as in other diplodocids, were most likely used in a similar fashion to the baleen whale's giant mouth comb system. The teeth were there more to help strip small leaves and needles from the food trees than for chewing and crushing plant matter. A mouth like this, while efficient at stripping a plant down to twigs and bark would be useless in actual mastication and therefore it would be a safe bet to assume that there was a rather hearty and equally efficient gizzard system present in this animal.

©Sereno et al. 2007
The skeletal to the left was designed using four partial skeletons. The ribs on this animal, we can see, were enormous and most likely had to be in order to contain that elaborate and efficient gizzard system housed within in addition to protecting the soft underbelly of the giant from predators to some degree. Notice also that the tail, extrapolated from size estimates and the presence of a few of the smaller tapering bones, was whiplike just like in other diplodocids, though not as long as Diplodocus itself, as a measure of length. Stout and stocky legs held the animal and its body, overall, was not exceptionally tall like some sauropods.

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